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Officials Withdraw Demand That ISP’s Block Online Gambling

June 8, 2009

Minnesota state officials said on Monday they will withdraw a demand that Internet service providers block access to hundreds of online gambling sites following a lawsuit by the gambling industry, which considers the push a violation of federal commerce and free-speech protections, The Associated Press reported.

Regulators said the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association has agreed to end its court fight in exchange for backing off.

A Minnesota spokesman for the Poker Players Alliance, which had campaigned against the enforcement action, and the chairman of the online gambling trade group have not yet commented on the situation.

Minnesota cited a federal telecommunications law from 1961 designed to restrict phone calls used for wagering, but some legal experts had questioned whether the law could be applied to the Internet.

In early May, the online gambling trade group sought a federal injunction, claiming the state notice was not legally valid.

John Willems of the state’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division said in a letter to Internet providers that whether or not iMEGA ultimately would have prevailed in court is unknown.

Willems suggested it might be more appropriate to resolve the problem by working to create clear and effective government policies concerning regulation of gambling.

Written notices were served to eleven national and regional telephone and Internet service providers in late April instructing them to prohibit Minnesota residents from accessing 200 websites devoted to poker gambling.

State officials have already stated their intention to follow through on the notices.

Andy Skoogman, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, where gambling regulators are housed, said he expects new strategies for regulating Internet gambling to emerge.

Skoogman said the current action raised awareness of the broader issue about who is policing the Internet and protecting the consumer.

“At this point, we don’t feel there is anybody. This is an issue that every state is going to face sooner rather than later,” he said.

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